By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
What a night of football. What a two weeks of football.
So far the action in local high school football has been fast and furious, especially at Mitchell Stadium.
One week after Graham surprised everyone but themselves with a 23-21 win over mistake-riddled Bluefield, the Beavers returned to friendly turf and scored 52 points, and won by just 8, in a thrilling 52-44 victory against Mercer County rival Princeton.
What a game. It was my first prep game of the season, having been in the office on opening night, and what a way to break back into it.
Covering football is one of my favorite parts of this job. I love the competition, the excitement and then trying to put it into words. That is the hard part because there is so much going on and it’s impossible to get it all in, although you would never know by the number of inches I can churn out at times.
Unlike college or pro football where everything from stats, quotes and food is provided, you are on your own in high school, and it can be a challenge.
Especially when the teams are moving up and down the field in a hurry like they did on Friday.
I can still remember the old days when my mother would call us to dinner and I would beg for two minutes because there was only two minutes left in a game. Unfortunately, those two minutes would seem like 47, especially to Mom.
On Friday, the first quarter, which is 12 minutes on the clock, took 47 minutes to play, and had just about as many points with 42. It was entertaining and fun, like high school football should be, and the large contingent of fans definitely got their money’s worth from the adventure.
Bluefield ran up 437 yards on offense, including 390 on the ground, and 194 came in the first quarter. The Beavers led 28-14 after one quarter. That is 42 points…Bluefield and Graham combined for 44 the entire game the previous week.
Even Bluefield head coach Fred Simon, who has been around football for much of his life as a player and coach, said he didn’t ever remember being involved in a game like this one.
Both teams have speed to burn, even if the fastest guy on the field, Princeton’s Tahj Sho-Johnson, was limited with injuries.
You don’t realize how fast these guys are until you can see it for yourself. I referred to the game as a track meet in my lead on the story on Saturday, and it was. I would love to see some of these guys running against each other in the 100 meter dash. That would be fun.
How fast are these guys? The two teams combined for 13 touchdowns and nearly as many onside or squib kicks. No one wanted to let the other team return kicks, and when they did they ran for 43 and 53 yards.
Bluefield took at 14-point lead into the second quarter, built the margin to 35-14 at the break, and increased it to 45-14 in the third.
One guy in the press box was talking the Beavers scoring one thousand points. Not quite, but it seemed like it.
Yet, Princeton head coach Randy Peek, entering his sixth week at the helm of the Tigers, was impressed that his team never gave up. They scored four of the next five touchdowns, but the Beavers’ one score in the final period was just enough for the win.
Finally, as my watch approached 10:30, the game ended. For a reporter on a deadline, that is no fun. I remember when I was in Bristol and had to have my stories from all over the Southwest Virginia coalfields in by 10:30.
The game might be over for the players, coaches and fans, but it isn’t for us reporters. We still have work to do. I tried to hustle down the Mitchell Stadium steps, which was difficult since an lineman-sized man in front of me was blocking my path either talking to anyone in sight or letting them in front of him.
I was finally able to get a few quotes, and then search for my car — which I finally found — and then had to wait to get out of the parking lot. I finally made it back to the office at 11, which is when I had told all our correspondents to have their stories in, and here I haven’t even started yet.
At least I had my stats.
My first experience covering a high school football game came to mind. I was working for Bristol and went to Sullivan Central in Tennessee, and since there was no room in the press box, I was invited onto the roof of that facility.
One thing I have learned about press boxes, especially at the high school level and oftentimes at Mitchell Stadium, is that it is anything but a press box. The press is often shut out in favor of radio and television crews, boosters and folks to who feel like coming inside.
One that night I didn’t know I could just sit in the stands or walk the sidelines so I made the treacherous climb up a ladder that with the slightest slip would have been a long fall to the ground below. I made it, stayed up there the whole game, tried to hustle back down and out to the field for quotes.
I don’t remember who they were playing or who won, but I drove above the speed limit back to the office and sat down to write. One problem, I didn’t keep the stats, for some reason I thought someone would do those for me.
Not. Luckily, someone was able to contact a coach and get the stats for me, but that was a hard lesson learned.
Keeping up with the stats and everything that is going on can be a challenge, and a football game doesn’t stop for you to catch up.
Keeping up with a running tally of total yards for the team and players can strain the brain, especially when math wasn’t my favorite subject.
It gets real tricky when you have a holding penalty at the spot of the foul and you have to figure how many yards to give the back and how many penalty yards to count, and you have to do it in a neat enough format to read it when you get back to the office.
That is often my problem. My writing is far from neat, but I try to make it work and hope I am close to accurate. Our statistics are never official, but we don’t have the benefit of written numbers or the time to watch film to figure it all out.
I learned late this week that we had the wrong player scoring a touchdown in a game the previous Friday, but the coach even admitted he didn’t know who had scored it either until he watched the film a few days later.
It apparently happened on Friday. It is amazing how similar numbers are on the jerseys. Everyone in the press box on Friday thought D.J. Stewart had scored the first touchdown of the game. We could see the 8 on his jersey. Wrong, it was a 3, but those numbers can be hard to make out during a game.
Ouch!! Got that one wrong. It was the ‘other’ D.J. — Edwards. No one feels worst than a reporter when a mistake is made.
After I was finally able to get back to the office, I typed in an agate box that filled the length of some short stories — that will happen with 13 touchdowns — and sent it to another newspaper for their use and then went to work.
It wasn’t a work of art, but you do the best you can and try to do it as fast as you can. Unfortunately, that one mistake ruined the entire article, which I will always regret because it was such a fun game, and deserved better.
There is still more to do after the story is written. All the information has to be put on bdtblitz.com, the Daily Telegraph website and the e-edition.
Finally, you can go home and relieve yourself of the stress and try to sleep. You can get up the next day and read what you wrote and figure out the dozens of things you could have done better. I do it all the time.
Yet, that is part of the job.
I will back at it on Friday, although I am not sure where yet. It will bring a new challenge, a new story, and I will love it all.
Even those 47 minute quarters. Just not the mistakes.
—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org